A most uncommon opinion piece issued in the New York Times, of all places, several weeks ago, which has led some among us to prick up our ears. The argument of David Reich’s “How Genetics is Changing Our Understanding of ‘Race,’” in brief, is that recent scientific research makes it impossible to consistently sustain the view that all human “populations” are identical in “behavior and cognition”—though, as our author is swift to caution, scientific research is presently unable to determine just what the specific differences between those “populations” might be.
Caveat aside, Reich’s is a welcome admission to find in a newspaper of the status—and orientation—of the Times. But tempting though it is to feel that this is a sign we race realists are slowly advancing our front, it is far too early to consider this even a localized victory. It may even be the contrary: for, quite beyond the fact that there have also arisen the tediously predictable pious denunciations of Reich’s piece from various members of the “scientific community” (a real “social construct,” if ever there was one), and quite beyond the fact that Reich himself seems to stumble over his own shoelaces every time he comes near to touching any essential distinction between the various races, it must also be noted that even if every scientist now living openly adopted precisely the stance that Reich suggests, this alone would still not be sufficient to secure our victory in the intellectual field.
There is a tendency in certain circles of the Right to assume that “the science is on our side”—meaning that sooner or later, the overwhelming evidence in support of race realism must take its rights in the public discourse, and at that point the “narrative” will begin, avalanche-like, to shift inarrestably in our direction. I submit that Reich’s article reveals why the science, alone and unaided, is insufficient to this task.
Reich states, near the opening of his article:
It is true that race is a social construct. […] But as a geneticist I also know that it is simply no longer possible to ignore average genetic differences among “races.”
We are liable to take this as a classic case of doublethink—scare quotes notwithstanding. But we will not get to the bottom of what is really happening here if we do not take Reich seriously in his claims.
To state it again, Reich’s argument is as follows: though science proves that there are measurable divergences between human populations, science is far from being able to propose what those divergences might actually entail.
Any one of us, of course, could give Reich a few suggestions on this score, and even direct him to a wealth of scientific findings which indicate specific racial differences with tolerable clarity. But I suspect that Reich is fully aware of these findings. Indeed, I believe he sees them as the problem, for which a solution must urgently be found; else I doubt he would have composed an article of this tone. Reich truly fears that the egalitarian premise (namely, that all or most human beings are literally “created equal,” and that the majority of manifest differences between them are reducible to environmental factors) “will not survive the onslaught of science,” as he himself puts it. But Reich is, at least in his public persona, equally devoted to an even more fundamental egalitarian premise (that human beings, despite all real or potential differences, are essentially equal in their worth)—as will surprise no one who knows anything about his background.
Reich’s drama is nothing less than the drama of the left itself in our day. The egalitarian left, through certain well-known theoreticians, intellectuals, and schools, has spent the past decades attempting to convince the wider public of the overwhelming importance of “nurture” over “nature” in the character of the human being. It has succeeded in this to an astonishing extent. But, as Reich understands, this basic premise can no longer sustain the weight of the growing body of scientific research. The left must therefore change rhetoric, and tactic to boot. It must use the enormous public sympathy it has garnered for egalitarianism in general, to counteract the force of specific scientific findings, by focusing the strength of egalitarian valuations away from the scientific plane, and back onto the moral and social one, where it is strongest.
Reich gives indication of how this is to play out when he suggests we approach the race question precisely as we have approached the gender question:
We should both recognize that genetic differences between males and females exist and we should accord each sex the same freedoms and opportunities regardless of those differences.
It is clear from the inequities that persist between women and men in our society that fulfilling these aspirations in practice is a challenge. Yet conceptually it is straightforward.
Let us suppress the urge to laugh out loud at this, particularly at the last bit of fantastic legerdemain, which obscures practically every major gender conflict of the past several centuries, as well as the chaos and confusion which these have spawned in everything from plummeting birthrates to rising “two-income households,” from the endless and irresolvable strife over inequalities in income and work-representation to the so-called “Me Too” campaign and its viciously unnatural ramifications for “gender relations”—all of which we are invited to ignore, because “conceptually it is straightforward.”
In point of fact, this conceptual straightforwardness is the very pith of the matter. There is nothing strictly incompatible between the position that “men and women are genetically different” on the one hand, and that “men and women should be equally represented in the workforce” on the other, so long as one is willing to tolerate a degree of practical messiness. The apparent contradictions in Reich’s statements vanish altogether if one accepts the premise that human beings are basically equal in value, no matter their differences in quality. This is the new egalitarianism, for which Reich is mere harbinger. And it is a purer and more consistent form of egalitarianism than any we have yet seen.
If I am right, we will see in coming years a rhetorical shift in the racial question, following the trail that Reich here has just begun to break. The injustice which is presently ascribed to environmental inequalities will simply be moved back a step, to genetic inequalities. No longer will it be claimed that we must give minority groups a temporary leg up in order to erode the disadvantages that have been historically forced on them; it will rather be argued that permanent advantages must be guaranteed to them because they have been injured by nature itself. A stroke of ill luck at birth, we shall be told, should not prohibit a man from enjoying the same opportunities or benefits that another man, who was endowed genetic advantages by an arbitrary fate, so unfairly possesses. Likely it will even be argued that whites have enforced centuries-long dysgenic practices against the other races, thus leading to a reduction in the innate capacities of the latter, a reduction of their genetic quality, average intelligence, etc. etc.
And it will certainly be argued, sooner or later, that the only way out of this evolutionary quandary is to interbreed to the point that all inborn racial capacities have been leveled and practically eliminated, and all advantages and disadvantages have been spread more or less evenly throughout the human population. This is not even to speak of the horrifying equalizing possibilities which genetics will one day afford us—as for instance the possibility of really and fundamentally “leveling the playing field” for every human being under the sun, starting already from his genetic make-up.
All of this to say that, by Reich’s view, we swing back precisely to where we presently stand, only by a different and more “scientific” route.
We have already seen gestures in this direction. When Kimani Paul-Emile suggests that Blackness should be treated as a disability, or when crippled people are rechristened as the “differently abled,” or when “curvy” (meaning grossly obese) begins to classify as the “new beauty,” all of this is nothing but an expression of the rotten heart of egalitarianism, which flinches not a whit at scientific discoveries of genetic differences, and which despises above all things the twin ideas of normality and excellence.
Make no mistake, Reich himself is “laying out the rational framework” for precisely such a change in egalitarian perspective. As he puts it:
An abiding challenge for our civilization is to treat each human being as an individual and to empower all people, regardless of what hand they are dealt from the deck of life.
Note that well—empower all people, no matter what genetic heritage they might happen to have been given by a cruel and indifferent fate. There is an entire egalitarian world contained in that little word “empower,” and I reckon that we will see it springing hideously to life in the near future.
The Invisible Hand
The major players who motion for such “empowerment,” it is needless to say, generally do so to serve certain definite interests, which are themselves anything but egalitarian. Reich gives a powerful indication of his real agenda by reproaching no lesser a biologist than the illustrious James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA, for a comment that Watson allegedly made to Reich (and to Ben Shapiro): “When are you guys going to figure out why it is that you Jews are so much smarter than everyone else?” This comment, which is simultaneously amusing, utterly innocuous, and also strongly supported by the very genetics that Reich purports to defer to, is according to Reich “insidious,” “pseudo-science,” a “racist stereotype,” a “hateful idea.” Naturally! It is one thing to talk about “West Africans” and “European-Americans,” as Reich is pleased to do; but Watson, in speaking of the Jews, has touched an inch too near the nerve.
But regardless of the hidden agendas here, this kind of maneuver will remain effective only insofar as there are yet a great many people who still fervently believe in egalitarianism and the justice of egalitarianism. And here is the essential point, which we must realize now, rather than later: science or scientific discoveries, no matter what they might reveal about human nature, can never touch the basic question of the justice or injustice of egalitarianism, nor pluck out the stubborn egalitarian root.
Science makes no value statements; it eschews all value as such (save the value of knowledge, upon which it is blindly premised). No scientific conclusion can lead one to change one’s morality, one’s view of right and wrong, one’s hierarchy of values. The contrary; every man inevitably interprets scientific conclusions in light of his fundamental values, rather than the other way around.
I will indeed go further yet: though science certainly does not “value egalitarianism,” science in a few profound and essential ways lends itself better to the egalitarian worldview than to our own: first, by reducing man and human things to their universalizable “basic elements,” meaning their lowest and crudest aspects; second, in its method, which attempts to equalize natural disparities in intellectual gifts by providing an artificial means of arriving at knowledge; and third in its technology, which is nothing but a forced leveling of human powers, an attempt to eradicate weakness and inequalities, and to conquer nature, which road ends necessarily in an attempt at the genetic “mastery” of human nature itself, as we have mentioned above. Science, to be sure, can be bent to elitist, aristocratic, or non-egalitarian ends—but this requires a conscious political and moral will which is entirely lacking in the present moment. Left to its own devices, science tends ever downward.
Which brings us back to our fundamental point. If we rely on science and the findings of science alone to effect the general change in worldview which we seek, we will wait long and ultimately in vain. Science is an indispensible tool to us in our efforts; but it is always just that—a tool. And it is a tool, make no mistake, which can be wielded as handily, if not more handily, by our opponents. “The science” is not on our side, has never been and shall never be; it is on no one’s side, because it refuses to take up sides whatsoever on the questions regarding first and last things. We must address these disputes on the level at which they are truly decided: the level of value, the level of good and bad, the level of love and hate.
Not the biological reality of racial differences, but the desirability of those differences—not the mere existence of natural human rank, but the innate goodness of natural human rank—this must be the principal meaning of our battle.